Saturday, June 30, 2007

Belly dance

I was beginning to think that Jerry would never feel this baby move or kick. I had been placing his hand over my belly at night when the major action happens, occasionally blurting out: "Did you feel that?" ... "Or that?" ... "You HAD to feel THAT!" But he never did.

Mostly he just felt me tighten my abdominal muscles when I became overly excited and talkative.

I thought I was going crazy, but the kicks felt clear to me. I often put my hands on my bulging belly when I lay down, then I wait for the action to start. It's amazing when my fingers are in the right place to detect the movement inside and out simultaneously. I desperately wanted Jerry to feel it, too.

Rather than push the subject by forcing him to keep his hand on my midsection until the circulation in his arm failed and the whole limb had to be amputated because I'm a nut bag, I just relaxed and figured it would happen when the baby's a little stronger.

But yesterday, while I was talking on the phone with my mom about my nursery decor neurosis, the baby gave a swift kick and startled one very confused Toby who had been resting otherwise contently on my lap. I, of course, laughed so hard that Toby nearly fell to the ground, but it was reassuring to know that someone else had finally felt this child move.

When Jer got home from work, I explained that the dog had beat him to detecting the first kick.

Later that night as we laid down to sleep and the baby started stirring (or what I like to refer to as my belly dance), I placed Jerry's hand where I had been feeling movement. Sure enough, after one particularly strong thump, Jer perked up and said, "I FELT THAT!"

It felt really good.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Stripes, lesbians and heroin wee!

I am now more confused than ever on the chair selection. Not only did many of you bring up some good points, a lot of them were ones I hadn't considered. Like how much the fabric will show spit-up. ... Right.

The bottom line is, there are no baby furniture stores in this area and none of the traditional furniture stores carry plush rockers like that, so ordering online is out of necessity. In the rolling mountains of central Pennsylvania and surrounding area commonly referred to as Amish country, I don't have the luxury of trying them out. Plus, both chairs take awhile to ship, so we need to purchase within the next month or so, not to mention the looming possibility that the sale on the one product will end without warning.

So, rather than make an outright decision, I've decided to select the bedding, THEN pick the chair and ottoman that matches best, THEN the wall color. I found a few kick-ass crib combos (again online because no local stores carry anything) that I think Jerry will not only approve of, but heave a big sigh of relief that I don't want the nursery to look like I blew up a gigantic doily filled with pink tulle and toile. A girl's gotta have some spunk, ya know? Even at three weeks old.

Speaking of pushing my preconceived ideals onto my unborn baby, I knew parenting would come with a lot of criticism, but I never realized quite how much. This is by no means return criticism of those who comment, in fact, I'd much rather spark a debate and get a little negative reaction once in awhile than start screening what people have to say or receive no comments at all. Part of the appeal of this online community for me is hearing what others think -- good and bad.

But since when am I not accepting of my daughter possibly being a lesbian just because I make the general observation that 99 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 15 have a cell phone attached to their head at all times? I know because I see it when I'm at the mall, at the gas station, at the movies ... besides, last time I checked in with the gay community, they use modern communication devices, too.

Yes, I know it's horrible of me to already have ideas about a general path in life that I would like my child to take. Call me, well, a soon-to-be parent, but I'd prefer to guide her toward smart decisions, make healthy life choices and grow up to be a productive member of society. That does not include things like sexual orientation, music taste or what color her hair is. But if she brings home someone who, oh, injects heroin into their veins -- boy or girl -- I'll be the first to make a snap judgement. Well, maybe second. It's a definite possibility that Jerry would beat me to it.

So, in closing, thank you very much for all of the chair suggestions. I had no idea people felt so strongly about stripes. It apparently goes way beyond "like" and "dislike" to "worship" and "abhor." You have shown me that the general population is as polarized over stripes as we are with our political parties. Yes, stripes would have to wage a hard presidential campaign if they wanted to sit in the Oval Office. Without a doubt, it would get ugly.

And, in closing closing, I heart lesbians. That is all.

...........................................................................................

At the risk of sparking another raging debate about polka dots,
here are two of the bedding patterns I've completely fallen in love with:

img11l
I love, nay, worship this green and pink combo.


img57l
Does this not make you want to crawl in and take a nap if you'd fit?

Thoughts?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

HELP!

I am in a quandary. My mother-in-law has generously offered to get us a rocker for the nursery, and after much online browsing, I found two chairs that I love -- four if you count color. I wanted something soft and inviting for the unavoidable early morning feedings.

Plus, by getting an actual piece of furniture, it's a substantial chair that will grow with our daughter. I can easily picture her flopped in either of these during her teen years, legs draped over one side while talking on the phone. Endlessly. Because that's what teen girls do.

The two chairs aren't that much different. Both look incredibly comfortable, both swivel and allow for rocking and gliding motions, both are about the same price (thanks to one being half off) and both have a matching ottoman. The first is slightly larger -- one inch taller and three inches wider. The second is marginally cheaper and comes in a cute stripe pattern.

Ever since we found out our baby was a girl, I've envisioned a pink and white room with green accents. I am well aware that too much of any one color can become nauseating, especially pink, so I'm really trying hard to strike a balance before we start making major purchases like paint, bedding and, well, a chair.

So, because you correctly identified the sex of the baby, earning you loads of street cred, I am once again turning to you for guidance, Internet. Please help me choose the chair for our nursery. I am notoriously bad at making decisions like this, often letting the choice consume me for days, and I am now at the point that I can't even rationalize one over the other any more. They all have pros. They all have cons.

Whatever chair we order we will have to stick with because the shipping costs are outrageous. There's no, "Um, maybe we should return it for the green one" option. Once the order is placed and the chair is delivered, it's final.

To help you place your vote, I'll talk you through my thoughts on each chair. Keep in mind we are thinking light pink walls and pink bedding.

pink
# 1
This is the more high-end chair that is half off.
I absolutely love this shade of pink but worry
that it would be too much in an all-pink room.

green
#2
Same chair in green. I love the idea of a
green chair, but I'm not sure about this shade.
It looks a little limey to me. Maybe too loud.

pinkstripes
#3
Another great shade of pink, broken up a bit
by the stripes. This one is from Target and I've
poured over the customer reviews. The only
complaint is that the chair sometimes squeaks,
but most say an application of WD-40 does the trick.
Although not pictured, this has an ottoman, too.

greenstripes
#4
This was by far my favorite until I read the customer
reviews. All of the other buyers say it's not as green
as the picture indicates and is, instead, mostly white
with thinner green stripes. I'm having trouble picturing it.

So, you see my dilemma. Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sweat-free, odor-free Jerryism

"Hey, I was going to go to the store later because I'm almost out of contact solution. Do you need anything?"

"Yeah, get me another stick of deoderant."

"Any particular flavor?"

"You know, Old Spice."

"Yeah, but do you want a certain scent? You like the one with the green stripe, right?"

"I don't know. Whatever. Get me 'Willowy Brook Farts' or 'Arctic Dick' or 'Mountain Piss' or whatever."

"Mountain Piss?"

"Yeah, all those men's deoderant scents are the same. They all start with 'Arctic' or 'Frosty' or 'Mountain' ... so whatever. Get me 'Frosty Knuckles' if you can find it."

I think I have glue in my left nostril

Well, it took me hours and hours to create four scrapbook pages, but at the risk of sounding like a complete dork, it was a lot of fun. I've always enjoyed working with my hands, and nothing fits the bill like taking a bunch of pieces and making a unique keepsake out of them.

Sure, I don't see myself having time to tie 15 tiny pieces of pink thread around keyhole stickers once the baby is born, but it really is a major stress reliever that I can lose myself in. (Almost more so than writing because it's not a cognitive thing -- I just sort of zone out.) Plus, it's the perfect way to put my design skills and artistic ability to work. Frankly, I can't believe I didn't start scrapbooking sooner.

I know the true test will be not letting it pile up and doing a few pages right after a big event like the first bath, a holiday or just an awesome picture of Jerry with spit up on his sleeve. Because if I let it go too long, I'm apt to feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin again.

Part of my inspiration for following through with it -- at least for the first year -- is a book my mom kept that documents her pregnancy and my infancy. I still love flipping through it to this day, and in between the last page and the back binder is a pile of childhood mementos like my first attempt at wielding a crayon.

I can only hope my daughter will take pleasure in her own book someday.


P1011637

This is the book that I bought. I used a magazine photo for
inspiration until I have an actual picture of our baby to put in there.

P1011622
I should've taken an "after" table photo. This is tame.

P1011635
20 weeks ultrasound photo page.

P1011633
The top reads, "My Top 10 Cravings" and I listed them on the
plate and made all of the food cutouts to the right by hand. I traced
an actual plate, knife and fork to help me with the place setting.
I didn't have any silver paper, so I used foil. I think it worked.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can't even help it

I'm starting a scrapbook for our daughter documenting the pregnancy and hopefully (if I'm dedicated enough to stick with it) her development throughout childhood. I'll post pictures later today if I'm thorough enough to finish any one page instead of just starting a bunch.

I went to a craft store yesterday and the sight of all of those cute paper cutouts and baby-themed stickers completely motivated me.

Okay, I'm off to cut, glue and place!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A birthday surprise

Yesterday was our niece Emily's fourth birthday celebration. And as we arrived to find an explosion of Strawberry Shortcake party gear and pink everything -- streamers, frosting, wrapping paper, balloons -- it was almost like looking into the future.

We had told Emily that part of her present would be finding out whether we were having a boy or girl. Because she can't read yet, we said would put a pink square in her card for a girl or a blue square for a boy. Although her two older brothers, Nate and Ben, seemed uninterested in what we were having in the days leading up to the ultrasound, the second we got to their house, they ran up and asked if we followed through and put the color in the card.

"Open Jer and Kelly's present first!" Ben yelled when Emily sat down to tear into her pile of gifts.

She simply grabbed at the nearest box, which wasn't ours, and ripped open the card. "Where's the color?" she asked, confused when it didn't have anything inside. Her mom, laughing, had to explain that not all of her aunts and uncles were having baby.

With a little help from her older brothers who can instantly spot Jerry's all-caps handwriting, they shoved our gift at her next, crowding around to see her open the card. Jer had taped inside a few squares of the many pink paint swatches we have strewn on the kitchen table.

As soon as they saw the pink, the boys were just as disinterested again, but I'll never forget how enthusiastic they were to find out. And later, after all the presents were opened and Emily found someone to detach the plastic binding on her new pink sparkly kitten flip flops, she padded over to where Jer and I were sitting, rubbed at my belly and said, "Hi baby girl!"

"Oh, she kicked Emily!" I lied. "She says 'Happy Birthday cousin! I can't wait to play with you!'"

Emily just sort of smiled and looked at me quizzically, but then bent down and whispered "It's time for cake!"

Pink princess cake, of course.

P1011603
The kids had a pie-eating contest.
Being a Strawberry Shortcake party, the
pies had strawberry-flavored whipped filling.



P1011608
Jerry couldn't resist attempting the next game
of trying to drop as many stuffed strawberries as
possible into a mason jar from shoulder height.



P1011614
Here's the birthday girl surrounded by her massive pile of presents.



P1011621
Emily insisted Jerry try on her birthday tiara and strawberry glasses.
It's a little tough to see, but he's also holding a princess wand.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Prepping for pink

It's strange how bestowing a gender upon my growing bump has suddenly made the fact that we're having a baby a little more real. A little more tangible.

All of a sudden I've found myself really concentrating on girls names and mentally envisioning what her nursery is going to look like. Call it "nesting" or whatever you'd like, but I inexplicably feel the need to start getting ready.

One of the first things Jerry and I did Saturday morning was prop up our pillows and lounge in bed with Toby to peruse paint swatches. As if the paint makers could read the minds of expectant parents everywhere, all of the pastel pinks have really sweet names like "ballerina," "tender rose" and "rockabye baby." That alone made it difficult to choose one over another. Not to mention I grabbed 105 pink swatches and 105 blues the last time I was at the hardware store. Narrowing it down to one of the two categories hardly made a dent at all.

It didn't help that we got the latest Pottery Barn Kids catalog in the mail yesterday, either. Jerry and I flipped through the nursery images for inspiration while eating heaping bowls of cereal, pointing out things we liked and nixing others.

Oddly enough, now that we know it's a girl, our ideas have changed. Instead of the dark mahogany wood we originally wanted, I keep picturing a white crib and dresser. Before I could even say it, Jerry was right there voicing the same thought.

"Maybe we should go with white furniture instead," he said.

"Get out of my head!" I said, shaking my spoon at him.

White it is.

I had temporarily put my baby girl insanity to rest sometime throughout the day, but Jerry woke up this morning already back on task.

"So I'm going to call the cable company tomorrow and have them install a line in the guest room, that way we can move the computer over and start painting soon."

He hadn't even gone to the bathroom yet.

I just smiled and nodded.

It's nice knowing I'm not the only one who is insanely excited to make room for our little lady.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's a girl!

I usually wait to add photos until the end of my posts, but I know even the most patient among you would scroll right over any text to get to the images in this case. So, with that in mind, here is our little one at 19 weeks and six days:

P1011600_3
Here you can see her profile. The dark line at the top of the head
is her mouth. The circle on the side of her head is her left ear.



P1011594_2
Same profile, but that little circle above her is her right fist. She
was moving around like crazy, playing with her arms and face.



P1011598_2
Here is her left fist. I'm amazed that this little image shows
all four fingers and individual knuckles. Technology rocks.



P1011593_2
And here, by far my favorite, a thumbs-up sign.
As in, "Hey ma, it's alright in here!"

......................................................................................................

When Jerry and I checked in with a receptionist, the suspense was killing me. I had to summon every ounce of willpower not to barge in on another woman's appointment, grab the ultrasound wand out of the nurse's hand and push it around on my belly.

Somehow I managed to refrain myself and sit with Jer in the waiting room. Thanks to my ever-so-timely husband, we were 10 minutes early, so I popped a hard candy into my mouth, crossed my fingers for just a moment and silently hoped that our little one would be healthy and strong. (And give us a good shot between the legs, of course.)

As the minutes ticked by, I became increasingly impatient. Every time the door opened to the exam rooms, I said, "C'mon ... c'mon ... c'mon ..." as if that would encourage a nurse to summon me rather than the other women in the waiting area. Instead, our 1: 15 p.m. appointment came and went. Everyone, including many who had come in after us, were being called in one by one.

We overheard a nurse arguing about a scheduling problem with the receptionists, but it honestly didn't dawn on me that perhaps the reason Jerry and I had been waiting so long is because we were the problem.

Eventually, a nurse I was familiar with called my name.

"Yay!" I said, picking up the pace as she practically sprinted back to one of the exam rooms. "We've been looking forward to this appointment for weeks! I couldn't sleep I was so excited."

"Well, c'mon back, but I have to tell you about a scheduling issue we ran into."

I turned around and shot Jer a nervous look as we walked.

Once the door was closed behind us, she gave an exasperated sigh, explained how the other two nurses were off for the week and that I was accidentally scheduled as a 15 minute rescan ultrasound, not the full-fledged 45 minutes she needed to complete a rigorous 30-point part check on our baby.

My whole body sagged.

"You've got to be kidding me," I said.

"I'm so sorry," she said, "but my hands are tied. I'm the only nurse on staff, I'm completely overbooked and I have a whole stack of files that I haven't even written up from yesterday. The only thing I can do is offer you a quick free ultrasound and not submit it to your insurance. That way, you'll be able to see the baby at least."

"I don't mean to be rude," I said, "but this is the second ultrasound appointment that has been cancelled on us. We drove more than an hour to get here and it isn't easy to arrange these visits around our work schedules."

"There isn't anything you can do?" Jerry asked.

She sighed, turned back to her daily appointment chart that was taped to one of the cabinets and scanned it with her left index finger. "The only thing I can think of is to cancel the one non-urgent scan I have on here. And I can't make any promises. Her appointment is at 2:45, would that work for you?"

"I'd probably be a little late to work, but I think they'd understand," I said to Jer. "What do you think?"

"If you could arrange the switch, we'd be more than grateful," Jerry said to the nurse.

"Alright," she said, turning to me. "Do you have a full bladder?"

"Yes," I said, almost forgetting that I was completely miserable and in desperate need of relieving myself.

"Well, then hop up quick and I'll get a picture of your cervix," the nurse said. "That way you won't have to worry about the bladder thing next time if I can't switch around the schedule."

As she squeezed a dollop of lubrication on my abdomen and applied pressure to measure the thickness of my cervix, it almost felt like torture that she didn't at least give us a quick glimpse of the baby just a few inches higher. Instead, she announced everything looked normal as far as my own body parts go and ushered me off to my five-month checkup with a doctor across the hallway.

"I'll stop over and let you know if I can squeeze you in after that," she said.

Feeling more than a little dejected, Jerry and I went to yet another waiting room and sat.

"This sucks," I said.

"Yeah, I know you love this place, but if this was our first visit, I'd be ready to switch doctors," Jerry said.

Eventually we were summoned into another exam room where I called someone at work to let them know about the problem and that I'd likely be a little late.

The doctor checked the baby's heart rate, which in one month slowed to 150 beats per minute, and explained that was an expected trend as the fetus develops. She also checked my legs for swelling and asked if I was having any complications, to which I thankfully was able to say no.

As we wrapped up the appointment, the nurse popped her head in and said we could have the 2:45 ultrasound.

Although still frustrated and a little stressed, I managed to shoot Jer a smile. We would get to see our baby after all.

We thanked the nurse repeatedly when we got the chance. She took my exam out of pause mode on her computer and gelled up my belly again. It was obvious that she was in a hurry, everything was a little rushed and frantic, but I didn't mind.

Within seconds, a clearly visible profile came into view on the screen. I couldn't believe how much our baby had grown in the three months since we last saw that little blinking blob with nubs where appendages would form. Now it had arms and joints and facial features and internal organs and pretty much looked like a human. Amazing.

I reached out my left hand and locked fingers with Jerry. We both just smiled at each other stupidly in the darkness then quickly turned our attention back to the glowing computer screen.

The nurse talked us through everything as she went: two kidneys, no obvious signs of a cleft palate or club feet, four chambers in the heart, the spine, the upper lip, eye sockets.

It was nothing short of amazing. Every bone was illuminated in shocking detail. The spine was facing up, so we could watch as it twisted and moved. The baby's arms and hands were very active, touching the head, exploring the face and grabbing at anything and everything. I just sort of laid there, desperately trying to take it all in.

"Did you want to find out what it is?" the nurse asked, pausing the screen and shocking me out of somewhat of a mesmerized stance.

Jerry and I gave her a simultaneous yes.

"Well, see these three lines?" she asked. "That's typically what we see for a girl."

I turned around just in time to see Jerry's face curl into a huge grin. "A girl, huh?" he asked. "Alright. Alright. I can do that. ... How sure are you?"

"I'd say about 60 percent," she said. "Up, there it is again. Nope, 80 percent."

At the third clear shot of the three lines, she upped our percentage to 90 percent and said she'd only been wrong about the gender once in two decades. With those kinds of odds, I felt very confident about her diagnosis.

A girl. We're having a girl. It's a girl.

I just kept repeating it over and over in my mind. After that, the nurse started referring to her by gender: her hands, her arms, her legs.

It started to sink in. That's my daughter. I squeezed Jer's hand tighter.

We left with four photos and the good news that we have to get another brief scan in four weeks. Any excuse to get to experience that again is a good one in my book.

The nurse explained that because the baby was spine up, she couldn't get a very accurate shot of the heart. Unfortunately our insurance probably won't cover it, and it's a significant expense at $200, but if it means ruling out a possible abnormality, it isn't even a question.

As we scheduled our next appointment, Jerry and I couldn't take our eyes off the ultrasound photos. On the way home, we took turns calling family and friends and sharing the good news. Most of mine were met with "I KNEW IT!" and lots of congratulations.

Hours later, after a very long and exasperating night at work, I couldn't wait to get to sleep. Jerry got home a mere moments before me and was laying in bed watching an episode of 24 on the mini DVD player.

As I crawled in beside him and put my head on his chest, he smiled and asked, "How are my girls?"

I smiled thinking I could get used to that question.

"We're good."

Really good.

Friday, June 22, 2007

FINALLY!

Today is the day and I'm raring to go. I have an arsenal of sweets tucked into my purse just in case this child doesn't want to cooperate. I stashed a few hard candies and even a mini Snickers bar left over from Halloween in hopes that if I time everything correctly and have a little sugar before I go in, he or she will be kicking and active.

My appointment isn't until 1:15 p.m. and it's killing me. I'd like to promise that I'll make it home with a few minutes to spare before I have to get ready for work tonight, but I'm not sure. We have our regular five-month appointment directly after the ultrasound, so it could take awhile, preventing me from sharing the news here later today. But I promise I'll have pictures and hopefully the gender of our baby by tomorrow morning.

Besides, some of the people in my life have threatened bodily harm if they don't find out from me directly and have to read the news on my blog. So I'd better take my time and make sure I call all of the appropriate people. Or at least call a select few who I know will spread the word far and wide. Like my mother. She's probably more thorough than a 30 second commercial spot during the Super Bowl.

And this may sound uber cheesy, but thanks so much for all the kind words. You'll never know how much I appreciate your enthusiasm and excitement.

Keep your toes crossed, please!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The way I see it

  • Although it was a close race at first, according to my count, the girl votes won by a landslide.
  • Judging by the Chinese gender indicator, I am also supposed to have a girl.
  • At our last appointment, the fetal heart rate was clocked at a high 160 beats per minute, also indicating a girl.

So I'm officially convinced it's a boy.

Nothing that comes out of my body will follow the grain entirely like that.

Is it Friday yet?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Private parts prediction

That's it. The anticipation is killing me. I want to know if it's a boy or a girl NOW.

To be quite honest, it's making it hard to concentrate on anything else. We were supposed to find out Monday, but thanks to a "scheduling conflict," we had to move our appointment to Friday. And can I tell you how completely unfair that is to do to an expectant mother who is having trouble sleeping already? My mind is working overload at night. If someone at my doctor's office was to call me back and make me reschedule again, they would find one berserk woman in elastic holed up in an exam room trying to wield the ultrasound equipment on herself.

I don't care what anyone says about "how few surprises there are left in life," in effort to encourage me to wait to find out until the delivery room. They're full of crap. If they don't think it's going to be just as much of a surprise now, I'd like to pop them into my neural folds for a day.

It's like Christmas in there. And not just any Christmas. The one when I was about 6 years old and couldn't wait to find out if Santa brought me Barbie's Dream House. And every night I closed my eyes and pictured myself playing with the little plastic elevator pulley and putting all Barbie's clothes in the closet in her room and setting up her pony outside, maybe even making a little pasture out of an old green bath towel -- you know, for effect.

It feels that good.

Six-year-old Christmas good.

Barbie Dream House good.

Everyone says most women's inclination is fairly accurate when it comes to the gender of their baby, but maybe I'm just not that tuned in. Or maybe I'm just so excited to have either one that I can't concentrate on what my gut is telling me. Some days I stand back in the room that will become the nursery and envision a little boy spraying pee straight up at Jerry while he tries to change his diaper. (I'm trying to be realistic, after all.) Other days I see me wrestling with a screaming little girl who just puked all over her adorable pink outfit.

Because Jerry and I haven't been able to talk about much else, we've been polling our family, friends and coworkers. So far, most have put their tally in the boy column, but I'm not completely convinced.

Just for fun, I'd like to do the same here. If you want to go on record, feel free to leave your vote with your name. If you just want your vote to be counted, but don't need the prestige of being correct, a simple "boy" or "girl" anonymously will do.

I have faith in you, Internet. I honestly believe that your talents reach far and wide and that you can correctly predict the gender of this baby.

Have at it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The state of my belly

As the end of my fifth month nears, it is becoming increasingly clear that I'm pregnant and not just carrying around a little extra weight. I couldn't wait for this day. I was frustrated with the in-between stage where none of my regular pants fit, but I wasn't yet filling out most of my maternity wear.

Now it's official: I have a baby bump.

All of the literature I've read says that, "if it hasn't already," my bellybutton is about to "pop." Apparently much like a turkey timer. What those books don't understand is that I don't just have an innie. I have a cavernous innie that I'm pretty sure a miniature explorer could traverse and end up in China. It's that deep.

I'm sure my challenging this notion will give the baby a little added incentive to give the back of my navel a swift and decisive kick, turning my bellybutton hole inside out for all to see. But at this point, I'm just enjoying what may end up being the last remnants of my once fairly attractive midsection.

Oddly enough, all of it reminds me of my 18th birthday. When I hit that government milestone, I wanted to do everything that legally opened up to me. Well, everything other than join the military and have sex. I wasn't mature enough for either of those things. So on the actual day of my birthday, I got a tattoo and bought a bunch of lottery tickets. At the time, it felt like a rite of passage.

When I sat down in the tattoo artist's chair, I asked for a very small purple star tattoo on my left foot, just above my smallest two toes. I don't remember the woman's name or much about her except that she had long pink dreadlocks, was covered in body art and wore the most phenomenal nail polish color of all time. It was a deep dark red that I felt would define me perfectly. Fortunately, she had the bottle at her work station. It was Loreal's Vixen. She wrote it down for me and I've been wearing it during the winter ever since.

She also explained that it was the parlor's policy not to tattoo hands and feet. Apparently the increased circulation in those areas causes the body to "heal" the tattoo more quickly, often altering the color and crispness of the edges.

Then she asked me for my second choice.

I was severely disappointed that it couldn't go on my foot. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I had been using pens and markers to draw a star right where I wanted it during my study hall period. Later, when I got home, I'd try on different sandals to see how it would look that summer. It was awesome.

So I'm surprised that having to choose something different didn't dissuade me. My next choice somehow became the spot above my bellybutton. Yes. I could wear little midriff tops and get a matching two-piece purple bathing suit. It would look awesome.

"Are you planning on having any kids?"

"Huh?"

"Do you want kids?" the tattoo artist asked. "Because if you do, that thing will stretch and bloat and it won't ever look the same. You'll hate it."

To an 18 year old who hadn't gotten past second base, mostly hated men and vowed never to get married, it seemed like an absurd question. Babies were out of the question. They cry and poop and, well, cry and poop. Who wants that?

Even though I told her I wasn't planning on having any kids, this was a woman with a little more worldly experience than I gave her credit for at the time. She probably took one look at my outfit and my giggling friends who came with me and immediately knew that I was a middle-class suburban teen who thought having a minuscule tattoo would make me rebellious even though I held a steady part-time job to earn money for college, received honor roll grades and sang in the school choir.

So she asked for my third choice.

After giving it much thought, I asked for it on my lower left back. That was when waistlines weren't inches above the butt crack, so it's actually about six inches higher than it would've been if I had turned 18 during the low-rise revolution.

Being a bit of a wuss, it hurt like hell, but I felt cool and unique and individual. I was the first of almost anyone in my grade to get body art thanks to my February birthday and I couldn't wait to show it off to all my friends.

Today, more than a decade later, I mostly forget it's even there. Occasionally, I use a mirror to check it out and laugh. It's really kind of a joke. Sure, I still love it in a "ode to my youth" sort of way. I mean, that little mark captures who I was at that time in my life. But if Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser sponge worked on skin, I'd rub it into oblivion without giving it a second of hesitation.

I certainly don't regret it, but if I ran into that tattoo artist on the street today, I would wrap my arms around her and gush my gratitude. The only reason I don't regret it is because I don't have to look at it on a daily basis. I didn't have to worry about it on my wedding day. Or when I went on job interviews. Or when I get dressed every day.

I would hate it on my foot. And now, as my belly stretches to never-before-seen proportions, I would HATE it there more than anything. More than being tied to a chair and being forced to watch all 47 Rocky movies in succession.

But at the time, I'm sure I was a little regretful that I wasn't more forceful about getting the tattoo on my naval. Perhaps that's why I got my bellybutton pierced in college. Well, plus it was the thing to do in the late '90s: grunge music, flannel and metal studs through fleshy parts of your skin.

I wore it with pride for many years and occasionally changed from hoop to stud and even to sparkly ghetto rhinestones for my honeymoon. It felt like a part of me as much as my earring holes did. Although, that's changed, too. I've gone from wearing three earrings in each ear to one. I took the rest of them out on my wedding day and just never put them back in. I guess I now prefer the look of one fabulous pair of statement-making earrings rather than cluttering my ears with tiny hoops and studs.

My belly stud was a non-issue until my midsection started growing. And even though my bellybutton hasn't "popped," the stud was getting a little tight. Besides, it started to show a little metal indentation under my clothes for the first time. And I'll be the first to tell you that it looks hideous under a bridesmaid dress.

So, on the morning of Jen's wedding, I reluctantly took out my belly ring. Well, Jerry took out my belly ring. With the help of two sets of pliers. That sucker was screwed on tight.

It didn't hurt physically as much as it affected me psychologically. Sure, I know it's time. I know a belly ring probably looks ridiculous on a pregnant woman. But I can't shake the feeling that I'm permanently leaving behind a part of me I'll never know again. Carefree, fun, spontaneous, tattoo-seeking, bellybutton-pierced, childless Kelly.

Fortunately, Jerry understood. He likened it to him getting his hair cut. He's had his rockstar long locks for years and the day he inevitably cuts it off, whether its months or years from now, will be monumental.

So, as we got out the camera to take my 19 week belly shot, we documented the last day of my belly ring, as well. I jokingly formed a heart with my hands to send it off with a loving gesture.

Goodbye belly ring. I'll always keep you as a memento.

Then again, I certainly don't want to pass you down through the generations.

So, um, I'm sure our garbage haulers are cool.

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I heart you, belly ring.


19 weeks
19 weeks. This so looks like it should hurt.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The only woman in maternity pants there

If I had a dollar for each time someone asked me if I've seen the movie "Knocked Up" yet, I would be jet-setting to Hawaii right now for a month's vacation. Believe it or not, but that question is right up there with "How are you feeling?" "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl yet?" and "When are you due?"

To be honest, I didn't want to see the movie. I'm having a really hard time keeping both eyes open through genuine birthing scenes on the TV show "A Baby Story" without contorting my face into a mixture of sympathy and sheer horror. And forgive me for saying this, but babies don't come out looking all cute and cuddly. They're gross and red and wrinkly and covered in all sorts of nasty liquids I can only imagine smell a lot less than pleasant.

So the thought of sitting through an exaggerated birthing scene for comedy's sake made me cringe. I know it's going to hurt. I know I'll want to give up halfway through and simply raise this child in my own body. I'd be wheeled on a massive flatbed truck through their high school graduation ceremony with a cap on my grotesquely huge belly. And somewhere in the middle of my huge flesh mound would be the indentation of two thumbs-up gestures being pumped up and down in excitement.

But everyone has told me how laugh-out-loud funny the movie is. And how much I'd relate. Besides, one of my favorite memories from our wedding was going to see "Wedding Crashers" with everyone in our bridal party and their significant others two nights before our big day. It just seemed so appropriate and topical that a movie like that would be playing when Jerry and I were going through the same thing. Not to mention we ended up with four wedding crashers of our own that I took immense pleasure in kicking out promptly.

So the fact that an equally popular pregnancy movie would be released the summer I'm carrying our first child almost feels like fate. Like it would throw the cosmos out of alignment or something if we refrained from seeing it in a theater.

And being Jerry's first pseudo Father's Day and all, I agreed to go. He had suggested seeing a movie last night and "Knocked Up" was the first that came to mind for both of us. Besides, instant agreement like that is an extremely rare occurrence. When it happens, we seize it and run like hell to whatever destination we've agreed upon before one or the other decides to foolishly offer up another suggestion.

After sitting through it, I have to agree that the movie really is laugh-out-loud funny. There are so many great one-liners that Jerry and I were repeating them in the car on the way home, giggling to ourselves like dorks.

On the other hand, I was right to worry about the birthing scene. Without giving anything away, there were a few moments that found me -- ironically, I guess -- curled up in the fetal position on my seat with my jaw gaping open and both eyes squinted shut with just slits to see through. Jerry, however, gave up watching completely. He forcibly slapped both palms over his eyes and left them there until the screaming stopped.

In the ensuing calm, we turned to each other in complete shock.

"OH MY GOD," Jerry mouthed with his lips.

Thankfully, in the darkness, he couldn't see that I'd probably lost all color in my complexion. To top it off, the baby was kicking furiously. There's nothing like getting lost in a movie only to be reminded not-so-subtly that an actresses' latest career move is a reality for you.

As I tried to fall asleep that night despite the erratic movement inside of me, I couldn't help but think that it'll all be worth it.

The things that take the most hard work and effort usually are.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jen & David's wedding

The day turned out beautifully. Other than a few minor snags like the limo driver not knowing how to get to the church and completely getting lost -- okay that was a major snag, I would've killed her -- everything went according to plan.

I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, mostly because we were in a lot of different locations throughout the day with varying degrees of access to my camera, but I got a few that I really enjoy.


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Here's Jen getting her hair done at the salon. Her
six bridesmaids, mom, sister-in-law and nieces
took over the place. They even ordered us pizza.


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Jen and her mom in the back of the limo on the way to the church.


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There's something I just love about this photo.
This is in the church before the ceremony.


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The bridesmaids and flower girls relaxing, waiting for our cue.


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Because I was in the ceremony, I didn't get any shots.
But here is Jen and David after for a formal portrait.


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Tia and Tasha being very patient during photos.


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My lovely bridesmaid's bouquet.


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Me and Jer at the reception.


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Dancing as the sun went down.


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Nothing like "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" at a wedding reception.


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Jerry being coerced into a shot with some of my former coworkers.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Here comes the brides

Let the nuptuals begin!

Today kicks off my frantic whirlwind summer of weddings with a final bridesmaid's dress fitting, attempting to give myself a manicure and pedicure, wrapping gifts, attending the ceremony walkthrough and rehearsal dinner. Tomorrow is a 7:30 a.m. hair appointment followed by the chaos that is being in a bridal party.

I'm already wishing I could take a nap.

The weddings come in rapid succession after that, many of which we RSVP'd our regrets to and sent a gift, simply because two or more fall on the same day. In all, I think we've only (ONLY!) accepted five of the eight invitations we have hanging on the side of our refrigerator right now. It looks like a printer cartridge filled with scrolly fonts blew up all over our kitchen.

Alright, enough reminiscing. Time to grab the nail polish and purse-sized bottle of hairspray.

I'm off to buff my nails into French manicure perfection that would make any bride-to-be happy to have me in her wedding photos.

At least, um, that's the goal.

I'm sure I'll be really good at it by September.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

When did talking about anal cavities become stranger-worthy?

What makes some people think it's completely acceptable to go into vivid detail about their lives when asked a simple question such as, "How are you?"

Is it a birth defect of sorts? Are they missing a chromosome? Are their brain synapses not communicating between the right and left hemispheres properly, so they feel the need to communicate everything that flits into their conscious?

Or maybe they're just so starved for attention that when a complete stranger acknowledges their existence they latch on verbally and refuse to let go?

Even if that were the case, don't they have any sense of privacy? Or topics that are off limits? Such as talking about a colonoscopy surgery, their pending divorce and their daughter's drug addiction all rolled into one horrifying 10-minute conversation?

If you think that was an example for example's sake, you are mistaken, my friends. That was a conversation I actually endured with a new neighbor a few days ago.

When I went outside to get the paper that morning, I noticed the garbage cans had been emptied by our trash collectors and decided to risk being seen in all my braless, makeupless wonder to drag them a few feet to the side of the house.

Big mistake.

No wait. That needed to be capitalized for even more emphasis.

BIG MISTAKE.

The couple that recently moved into the upstairs apartment of the house next door was talking at the foot of the staircase that ends right where Jerry and I store our garbage cans. As I dragged them, one by one, into place, I knew it would be rude not so say hello, despite wanting to crawl back into the anonymity of my house undetected.

"Good morning," I said, giving a little wave.

The man walked off in a huff without saying a word and the woman just sort of sat at the bottom of the steps, inexplicably holding four Gatorade bottles of varying primary colors.

As I set down the final can, I made the gargantuan mistake of not leaving it at that. Instead, I added, "How are you?"

In a childlike voice full of self-pity, she let out a huge sigh and said, "Oh, I'm feeling a little better ... I guess."

"Oh? Not feeling well?" I asked, giving the cans one final alignment.

"I had a colonoscopy yesterday," she said.

At that moment, I honestly wanted to scream something like, "Get better soon!" and sprint back into the house as fast as my pregnant ass could carry me. But I didn't think to interject my sentiment fast enough. She continued dispensing personal information in rapid-fire.

"Yeah, it didn't go too good. The doctor said my windpipe cut off and I started to turn purple, so they had to stick a breather tube down my mouth and now my throat is killing me. And I guess they found a few things down there during the surgery, but hopefully nothing real bad because colon cancer runs in my family. All my grandpaps died from it."

"Oh," I said when she let out a momentary pause. I unknowingly had been backing up a few inches at a time to release myself from the conversation, but it was very obvious that she wasn't picking up on any of my not-so-subtle body language hints. I was in it for the long haul.

"And I'm going through a divorce right now. My boyfriend and me just moved here and I don't have either of my girls with me. Not that they'd want to be here. The one has a real bad drug problem. She's gonna get her ass thrown in jail, but her dad doesn't give a shit, so she wants to stay with him. I guess he just lets her shoot up whenever she feels like it."

"Oh," I said again, not knowing what the hell is the appropriate response to THAT sort of disclosure. Part of me felt like calling attention to the absurdity of her involving me in this conversation by reaching out my hand and saying, "By the way, my name is Kelly."

Another part of me wanted to say something equally as uncomfortable like, "Yeah, I know about colon problems these days. I'm pregnant, so the constipation is killing me. Sometimes I can sit on the toilet for up to 30 minutes and only get one little squeeze out. And my pregnancy books warn me that my boobs are going to start leaking soon, so that'll be interesting!"

As I mulled all of these thoughts, I realized this unnamed neighbor I hadn't ever had a conversation with was still rattling off insanely personal anecdotes. In effort to preserve my sanity, I tuned in and out, nodding and interjecting more "Ohs" where necessary.

Thankfully, as if a gift from the bad conversation police, a visitor stopped by to see how my neighbor was feeling after her surgery. As soon as that third party entered verbally, I knew it was now or never. I had to escape. Fast.

"Well, I'll let you two catch up," I said, "besides, I have to go bolt my front door closed so I never accidentally run into you again."

No. I didn't really say that. But that's what I was thinking.

I just wished her well and hauled ass back into the sanctuary of my living room.

I closed the door and leaned back up against it panting as if I was the teenage virgin victim in a horror flick and successfully warded off the guy who was after me with chainsaws for arms.

It felt that intense.

That's the last time I put the garbage cans back in their proper place after trash day. Jerry's on his own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

To dream perchance to sleep

Ugh. I'm just so damn tired. Last night was by far the worst night sleep ever. In the history of sleeping.

After hours of fighting an achy back, a wildly thumping baby (which now feels like it's banking a basketball off of my abdominal wall), intermittent thunderstorms, getting up to pee and struggling with my favorite T-shirt that suddenly feels absolutely constricting, Toby woke up at the foot of the bed, walked over my entire body, flopped down in my armpit, took up half my pillow and started snoring loudly, exhaling his nasty-ass doggy breath inches from my face.

At that point I gave up on any hopes of returning to sleep and started laughing uncontrollably.

Toby didn't even stir.

Asshole.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A three-hour (bathroom) tour

As my Aunt Glrr puts it, "my carefree days of being able to sail by bathrooms without a care are over."

Never have words rung so true.

Yesterday I had a slew of errands to run that kept me on the go from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., culminating with one very exhausted pregnant lady who would've been perfectly content falling asleep on her desk with a keyboard embedded into her cheeks and forehead.

It started off relatively simple with small necessary tasks like running to the bank and post office, but my bladder won't hold more than a teaspoon these days without crying out to be emptied. As I walked around downtown, I knew from experience that I didn't want to test it, so I started scanning the storefronts for potential bathroom suitors. Little did I know it was the beginning of what I assume is going to become a regular habit.

Then I spotted a cute little bakery and coffee shop I'd been in once before. The owner was more than accommodating when I asked to use the ladies' room. It was, by far, the nicest bathroom I would see all day with a scented air freshener, real hand towels and country-kitsch wall hangings with sayings like "Home Is Where The Heart Is." Granted, I'd gag if that was my own bathroom, but for a facility away from home, my heart (and ass cheeks) was all about it.

I made it almost an hour after that. The next bathroom stop was at the dress shop where I had my alteration appointment for the wedding I'm in this weekend. As the seamstress handed me my dress with instructions to try it on, I realized the only way my pants were coming down was if a toilet was directly behind me. I politely asked if there was a restroom I could use and she showed me the way. This one was much more industrial with one of those toilets without lids, a hand blow dryer and a fan that turned on automatically when you flipped the light switch.

After that, I returned the hideous monstrosity that Boscov's calls a maternity bathing suit. I couldn't help but peruse the nearby baby section for awhile, looking at all of the awesome miniature versions of everything. Shortly after, my bladder called again and I was starting to get pissed off (pun intended). I mean, what the hell? I hadn't even ingested any liquid in HOURS. And yet, there I was, needing to pee. AGAIN. The store clerk directed me to the upstairs facilities -- a large room with stalls, numerous sinks and paper towel dispensers.

At this point, I was starving. The baby was kicking furiously, which I translated to mean, "I'M HUNGRY, WOMAN!" So I stopped at Panera Bread for one of those amazing grilled portabello mushroom paninis. When the cashier asked if I wanted anything to drink with that, I seriously considered punching her in the face. Yes, yes of course I want something to drink. But no, no I do not want anything that will result in any more damn trips to the bathroom. It's a vicious cycle I would prefer not to take any part in, but alas, Panera has awesome lemonade. Damn.

I managed to make it through a few more stores without a problem, then I had to get to work and found relief in my regular stall. Second from the left. A reliable 20 or so paces from my desk. It's a very one-sided relationship, but these days I'm more than grateful for it.

Later, I took a dinner break to run to the other side of town to pick up a few items at Target. As I started to walk to the door, my bladder made me hesitate. I actually stopped like an idiot mid-pace, turned around, considered walking back to the bathroom, mulled whether I could make it to the Target bathroom and decided I could. Never again. I almost risked getting a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot, just so I'd be a few spaces closer to their toilets. But I sucked it up, parked in the back of the lot and speed-walked as fast as my legs would allow. There I found another large room with multiple stalls in various stages of disarray. It was, by far, the least pleasant of all of my public bathroom jaunts for the day. Dearest Target, I just found your one and only flaw. But I love you and, thus, I will overlook it.

So, in all, I spent a good portion of my day frantically searching for toilets.

If it gets any worse, I swear I'm going to invest in some Depends.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Novelle in shorts

It's another one of those "random tidbits" days:
  • Jerry and I sat down and poured over our calendar yesterday, marking off all of the dates we have to remember this summer and plans we've committed to that hadn't yet made it into an ink reminder. The rest of this month is nothing short of chaotic. We have two weddings, one rehearsal dinner, six birthdays, Father's Day, my dress-alteration appointment, eye appointments, hair appointments and the long-awaited ultrasound. To get me through this week alone, I made a list of all the things I have to accomplish each day. Kind of like a weekly pill case so I don't forget anything. Even the most minute details went on there like "deposit paycheck." Because I'm afraid if I don't have something to help guide me through, I'll end up showing up to my hairdresser's instead of the church. And I'm pretty sure a no-show bridesmaid would be crucified for that type of mistake.
  • It is no longer a question whether the movements I'm feeling is the baby or not. In fact, the thumps are now well-pronounced and constantly growing in strength and frequency. At our last appointment, my doctor explained that it isn't unusual not to feel the baby for days or even weeks at a time in the fifth month. It was mostly a reminder not to worry if the baby doesn't make itself known regularly at this point. Not ours. Not this baby. Jerry and I either combined to make one extremely hyperactive child or it's definitely a girl and she's already training to become a Rockette. I feel flips and stretches and all sorts of kicks at least twice or three times a day. The strongest ones feel like someone is softly flicking me with their finger from the inside. It's awesome.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Maybe I'll just stop ingesting liquid entirely

There are plenty of extremely embarrassing moments of mine that I've publicly drawn attention to on this site, but I never, never, EVER thought this would be among them.

I peed myself.

There. I said it. I peed myself.

I thought the unfortunate side effects of pregnancy would stop at the frequent urination, itchy stretching skin, difficulty sleeping, inability to feel full and general sense of lack of control over my own body.

But this week I experienced two new ones: acid reflux and the afore mentioned, um, pee thing.

As for the acid reflux, I thought I was going to die. Jerry and I had an early dinner one night this week so he could get to bed, but of course, I got hungry a few hours later. Not wanting to prepare any elaborate meal, I dug through the cabinets and found a bag of Ramen noodles.

It tasted good at the time, but not when it decided to pay another visit. It returned in the form of a horrible constant burning sensation at the back of my throat throughout the entire night with a distinct faux-chicken flavor. Ugh, it makes me gag just thinking about it.

I vowed to stay away from acidic foods a few hours before bed and hoped the situation would rectify itself.

The next night, I had a bowl of watermelon as an after dinner snack at work. By the time I got home, I could feel that same burning sensation at the back of my throat. Only instead of the chicken flavor, it was a little sweet.

I wasn't hungry in the slightest, nor do I know anything about treating acid reflux, but I didn't want to give my stomach any other liquids to toss back up at me. So instead of the milk that I so desperately wanted to quell the burning, I choked down a few dry crackers and tried to sleep.

Fortunately, it seemed to work. And I haven't had any problems since then, but I now have the utmost respect for people who have to deal with that on a regular basis.

The other issue happened yesterday. It was a gorgeous day, so Jerry and I decided to spend the afternoon swimming at my mother-in-law's house. When we got there, her car was parked out front, but the house was locked. We assumed she had carpooled with Jerry's sister to one of our nephew's little league games.

We walked down to the pool and got to work removing the cover. During the car ride over, I wished I had used the bathroom before we left, but it wasn't quite dire. As we revealed all that sparkling water, the situation increased in severity, but I held steady. In fact, I lasted long enough to skim all of the leaves and bugs out of the entire pool.

But as Jerry threw on his sneakers to go for a run, I expressed my need to use the bathroom. NOW.

We both have keys to the house, so I grabbed mine and we headed up together. I was practically sprinting.

Fortunately, the downstairs bathroom is immediately to the left of the front door. As soon as I unlocked the house, I scurried as fast as I could to the toilet.

But even though I was wearing elastic pants, it wasn't fast enough. My bladder was screaming. I was pumping my legs up and down, trying to pull down the few layers separating me from that toilet and I couldn't do it.

I honestly thought I was still holding steady until I felt a warm trickle run down my left leg.

"Oh, GOD!"

I did manage to get a little in the proper place, but I couldn't believe how little liquid I actually expelled. It had felt as if I was carrying around an entire milk jug full of urine in my abdomen, when, in reality, it was more like half a cup. If that.

But the relief felt incredible. Even if it did come with the realization that I was 29 years old and just peed myself.

I pushed the door open a crack and yelled to Jerry.

"JERRRR, I JUST FRIGGIN' PEED MYSELF!"

"What?"

"I JUST PEED MYSELF! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?"

He came to the door, laughing.

"I don't know what happened! I couldn't hold it even for another second. I have lost total control of my own body. This baby is taking over."

Silently, I said a little prayer of thanks that I had to work that night and had packed a clean change of clothes in addition to my bathing suit.

"I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M WASHING MY HANDS ... I SHOULD BE SCRUBBING MY LEG! GROSSSSS."

And after all our commotion, I heard a stirring upstairs. Oh, God. Jerry's mom was taking a nap. She wasn't at the baseball game after all. I had woken her up screaming to Jerry about pissing myself.

If I could've flushed my entire body down that toilet at that moment, I honestly would have considered it. Living in the sewers. Free to pee myself whenever duty called.

Fortunately for me, she didn't mention anything about what woke her. So either she didn't hear the details of my shouted pee revelation or she was kind enough not to call me out on it.

Either way, it makes acid reflux seem a little more tolerable somehow.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Not in my backyard

I've recently learned an invaluable lesson that I'm sure most homeowners come to grasp eventually: No matter how much work you put into your own house, you can't do anything if your neighbors let their properties go to crap.

Jerry and I live in a low-income area. And with that comes people who can't afford to maintain their houses -- particularly centuries-old houses that need quite a bit of attention and care. Not to mention landlords who buy big houses with the sole intention of making money and flying just under the town's codes and regulations radar.

Fortunately, we found a house in a good neighborhood with a lot of great people who take pride in their properties. Sure, we're flanked by renters, but both landlords have done significant exterior work in the past year: energy-efficient windows and new gutters to the left and an entire refurbished staircase to the right.

But all isn't well. After an outdoor screaming match at a house a few down from ours Monday night that involved police intervention -- which, sadly, I missed because I was at work -- we've come to learn that the landlord is trying to evict his tenant in hopes of putting in a halfway house. You know, a government-funded facility for convicted drug addicts' rehabilitation. And in my line of work, I am well aware that the likelihood of many of these people returning to their bad habits is fairly high.

At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I fully support the need for these types of facilities. But as a homeowner who is about to have a child, I know my property value would plummet, and I don't need any additional worries about allowing my child to play in his or her own backyard.

Instead of doing nothing, Jerry and I, along with a few of our neighbors, have brought the rumor to the attention of our local officials. Four of us met with the township's code officer and the borough manager in a small air-conditioned room yesterday afternoon in hopes of getting more information about any course of action we can take to prevent this from becoming a reality.

Fortunately, we were taken seriously. I got the feeling that they understood our concerns and even expressed that a halfway house would also be a disinterest to the township because it would go from a tax-collecting property to a tax-free property.

The other good news is that the house is in obvious disrepair. The landlord would likely need to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring the building up to code. Plus, he would need to meet strict state regulations to operate a funded facility. And, again, judging by the condition of the house, I doubt he has the funding and patience for that kind of an undertaking.

Unfortunately, there's really nothing that we as neighbors can do. A halfway house is considered a "group home" which falls under acceptable use in a residential zoning ordinance.

The other bad news is that the code officer mentioned that he had received a call about the project from the property owner -- proving to me that it isn't just a rumor.

I'm trying not to rush to conclusions and overreact, but it's hard not to. The neighbors who attended the meeting with us have already considered putting their house up for sale.

As of now, I'm believing in the good fight. Our newspaper has covered story after story where if a neighborhood bands together and throws a big stink, local officials usually step in and find some loophole to make the majority happy.

I'm hoping it doesn't come to that, but it's amazing what lengths I'm already willing to go to for a little inches-long being whose lungs can't even process air yet.

Friday, June 8, 2007

I might just have an actual bowl of oatmeal to celebrate

Well, painting our porches was a little bit more complicated of an undertaking than I had anticipated, but the end result was well worth the extra effort. It was even worth all of the little bloody pricker scratches I have running down the entire length of the back of my legs and the pancake-sized bruise on the front of my left thigh that I received while trying to gingerly step over some unknown flower bush and, in the process, rammed my leg into the blunt corner of the front porch.

But don't worry. The flowers are fine.

(Yeah, I re-examined my priorities after that. My leg feels like raw ground beef.)

At the time, I was also holding a wet brush and an open can of paint when I injured myself, but amazingly, I was cognisant enough not to spill a drop or muscle spasm into the white porch railings. Forget my flesh, that will heal. Paint on brick is forever. So I consider that a success.

In fact, we hardly dripped at all. After spending two full days up close and personal with every wood plank surrounding our house, it's amazing I didn't know what other colors of paint we'd find underneath the green. Whoever applied the green and the gray were damn sloppy. There are drips and splotches and sometimes entire brush strokes on the surrounding brick. I'm pretty sure they tried to use a horsehair brush. While it was still attached to the horse.

We still have almost an entire can of paint left, so we plan to do a third coat on the high-traffic areas in a few days. I'd be out there right now, but the forecast predicts rain, so it can wait.

Besides, not only do I need the break, but a bird christened my handiwork sometime overnight, and I'm hoping the rain will wash off the big glop of white crap.

Nothing says "job well done" like a steaming smear of bird juice.

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First, we scraped off all the chipping paint.


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Next, Jerry rough sanded, then light sanded.


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This is what it looked like after. Lovely.


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This is the only "before" picture I have of the back.
We actually took this the day our real estate agent
gave us our first walk-through of the house last year.


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After. Warm oatmeal. I absolutely love it.
(Note the proximity of the rose bush to the porch.)


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Before. I crack up seeing Toby's little head popped up in the doorway.


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After. Again, love. ... Love. Love. Love it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Lessons I learned yesterday

Pros of painting outside:
  • Having open air at your disposal really does cut down on the fumes significantly.
  • Doing anything outside on a nice day is better than doing the same task inside.
  • A cool breeze while you're sweaty and painty ROCKS.
  • Your neighbor might notice that you need a bigger brush and come over to let you borrow his.
  • Your dog can play in the grass, so no need to worry about stopping for bathroom breaks -- just your own.

Cons of painting outside:

  • Bugs don't have the cognitive ability to recognize wet paint. The little ones get stuck in it and the big ones mess up your brush strokes.
  • Spiders. Spiders. Spiders.
  • A cool breeze when you're already in the shade SUCKS.
  • While delivering a brush, your neighbor might also tell you that you should've stirred the paint better.
  • Rose bush prickers up your ass is not a good time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It's finally time to paint

I'm off for the next two days.

The forecast predicts warm sunny weather.

Break out the oatmeal!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Resurrecting novelle in shorts (with photos)

  • So, um, I tried the whole pillow between my knees thing and, granted, it wasn't a full-blown body pillow, just one of the six or so we have in our bedroom at any given moment, and although it did help get me to sleep, it posed a bit of a problem after that. Sometime in the middle of the night, I rolled on my back with the pillow still lodged between my legs. It formed a gigantic tent of sorts with our comforter. As if waking up to that wasn't strange enough, I'm pretty sure I was dreaming that I was in a Thighmaster infomercial with Suzanne Somers because I was pumping my legs back and fourth like a maniac. I think I'm scarred for life.
  • I just got a frantic e-mail from my friend Andrea whose wedding we will be attending in five weeks. It detailed all of the last-minute stresses brides inevitably end up having to deal with, and the entire thing made me smile. I couldn't help but recall memories of our unforeseen hurtles in those final days and weeks. Hers took the form of the head chef quitting at her reception venue. Mine was a hurricane killing every peony in the entire country. I wrote back telling her to take a deep breath and promised that in six weeks, she'll be laughing, too. Of course, it's easy for me to say. All of the peonies are blooming right now and they give me a chuckle every time I see one.
  • I think the realization that you're about to have a baby hits home for different people in different ways. For Jerry, it has spurred him to resume a workout regimen in hopes it will help him keep up with our little one and live long enough to see any potential great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren. You know, age 319. He's running and lifting and eating healthier all in the goal of shedding a few pounds and increasing his energy level. Yesterday, during a walk, he voiced that it would be amazing to get down to 200 pounds. I could only think to say one thing: "Maybe if you stick with it, you and I will reach that milestone in the same week!"

P1012885
We don't have any peonies in our yard, but our rose bush is in bloom.


P1012887
It is really tough being Toby. Really.


P1012892
And I'm not sure what these purple things are, but I love them.


17 weeks
And because my mom was threatening to disown
me for not posting a 16 week belly shot, here is my
17 week belly shot in all of its elastic waistband glory.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Remembering Mr. Dobler

It's officially getting hard to sleep. But as much as I want to whine about it, I know I'm in complete bliss right now compared to how I'll feel in my third trimester. So I'm trying to shut up and suck it up.

All of my pregnancy books say women should stop sleeping on their stomach for obvious reasons. Plus, it's just too uncomfortable. But from the fourth month until giving birth, experts recommend not sleeping on your back either. And I am a back sleeper.

I credit my preferred nighttime position to my neurotic fourth-grade teacher Mr. Dobler. He was a well-groomed, fit, middle-aged man who often lectured us about posture and wrinkles. To this day, I can envision him pacing back and fourth at the front of the room, jingling the obscene amount of change in his left pocket and tossing and catching a worn piece of yellow chalk over and over again in his right hand as he quipped at us to sit up straight and keep our fingers off our faces because any unnecessary touching would lead to wrinkles down the line. (Which, as everybody knows, is of utmost concern to an audience full of 9 year olds.)

But against all odds, one of Mr. Dobler's random life-lesson tidbits managed to stick -- much more so than the arithmetic he taught during math hour or the structure of a haiku poem during English lessons. I remember him talking very seriously about how the body regenerates during sleep and how everyone actually wakes up a little taller than when they crawled into bed as their ligaments and spine stretch out. He followed it up by explaining that the best position for your back is to lay on it.

Wanting to test his theory, I snagged the measuring tape from the kitchen drawer that night and clumsily attempted to record my own height in the privacy of my bedroom before going to sleep. I wrote down the figure, trying my best not to get it exactly. To the nearest millimeter.

That night I didn't squirm at all. I got on my back and willed myself not to move. I'll never know if it worked entirely, but I woke up staring at my ceiling, so I considered it a success. The measuring tape, pencil and paper with my scrawled height measurement were sitting directly beside me on my dresser. Without hesitation, I bolted up, pulled out the retractable ruler as fast as I could before gravity made me shrink and attempted to record the length of my body one more time.

I'm not sure if I wanted it to be true so badly that I subliminally altered the figure a little, or maybe my highly irregular self-measurement tactics simply lead to two different results, but either way, I was taller in the morning. Mr. Dobler was right.

From then on, I vowed to sleep on my back. And still do.

But now I'm not supposed to. By the fourth month of pregnancy, the uterus gets so heavy that if an expectant mother lays on her back, it presses against two vital blood vessels along the spine. It blocks blood flow to the baby and prevents the blood in the lower half of the body from returning to the heart.

At first I thought it was a bunch of crap. Sure, I tried to lay on my left or right side like the experts recommend, but it isn't easy breaking a habit you've had for at least two decades. All last month I ended up getting frustrated, giving up and returning to my back to fall asleep.

By the end of the month, I realized that the whole "heavy uterus thing" might actually have some weight. During the middle of the night, I often would wake up and notice that my legs felt a little tingly. So I'd flip to my left and, sure enough, noticed a warm sense of activity in my lower back as the blood coursed through it unimpeded.

Still, I found it hard to give up my routine. I tried to fall asleep on my side, but it just frustrated me.

Now that I'm approaching the middle of my fifth month, I can actually feel the weight of my uterus when I'm laying down. I can feel it pressing against my spine. I can feel that I shouldn't be laying on my back for long periods of time. It isn't comfortable anymore.

So now every position is unpleasant and my nights of mostly uninterrupted sleep with only one or two trips to the bathroom are over. I toss. I turn. I curse my bloated midsection and inevitably wake up every morning with a sore lower back and joints that feel like they were squeezed through a wine press.

Not to mention the baby deciding it's time to conga dance while I'm trying to sleep. (Fortunately, that has yet to ware on me. At the moment, I absolutely love it.)

So, every night, as my achy body tries to settle into a somewhat comfortable stance, my discontented mind inevitably wanders.

Mostly I curse Mr. Dobler and wonder if all of his obsessive ideals kept the wrinkles away. I'm guessing they didn't.

And that, at least, curls my budding laugh lines into a smile.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Because you've always wanted to know what brand of soap I use

A batrillion years ago, I was asked by Mrs. Cameorole to list seven random things about myself. I'm not sure why, but I have a hard time fulfilling these types of requests. I guess it's because the organizer in me feels that all of the items should be related somehow. Or at least follow some sort of a pattern. Or have a reason for their numeric designation in increasing or decreasing importance. Then again, on days like these where nothing of even minor substance begs to be written down, I guess I can dig into my gray matter and air out a few tidbits.

  1. I am very particular about all of the products I buy. I am what most consumer researchers would call a "habitual shopper." If I find something I like, I am apt to stick to it for decades. Toothpaste? Crest original. Orange juice? Tropicana, no pulp. Bar soap? Dove. It practically takes an intervention to get me to switch. But every once in awhile, I end up experiencing something different while visiting someone else's house and it throws my whole system for a loop. Often I can remember who unknowingly prompted me to break my routine and commit to another brand. It's that monumental. The Dove bar soap, for example? I used to be a Softsoap girl until a friend of a friend crashed at my apartment during the summer of 2000. Thanks to her sensitive skin, mine is now uber soft and hydrated. And it would take something cataclysmic like the end of the Dove company to force me to stop buying it (in bulk packs of 12).
  2. I always wear my seat belt and I give full credit to Jerry for it. Not only because he led by example, but also because he made me want to stick around. When we met, I immediately knew he was someone I wanted to have a lot of years with. Now I can't even start my car without buckling up.
  3. One of the hardest parts about working an irregular night shift is the inability to commit to any extracurricular activities. In high school and college, I was involved in as many groups as I could cram into my overly packed schedule. Often, many of the responsibilities would overlap, but I found a way to juggle all of it. Now I find myself wishing I could even set aside one night a week to join a choir or for Jer and I to start a stupid bowling league with friends or even just enroll in an art class. I desperately miss that sort of outside stimulation of creativity and camaraderie.
  4. Even after more than a year of having Toby in our lives, the novelty of owning a dog has not waned. Jerry and I are still so thrilled at the random chain of events that led us to Toby because he brings so much joy and happiness to our lives. And even though there are moments that I could rip his tiny vocal cords out of his throat or shove his claws one by one back up into his paws because they're digging at my flesh, they are more than outweighed by the times my heart swells with contentment when he instantly configures his body to fit into a notch on mine, takes a big breath and lets out an old man sigh.
  5. Even though I like feeling ultra feminine on occasion by putting on a gorgeous dress with killer accessories, having nice hair and smelling pretty, I love doing traditional "guy things." If I wasn't pregnant, I would be outside right now wielding a power sander on our front porch, not giving a crap about the green dust it was kicking up all over my clothes and skin. I take pride in the fact that I can put on my own spare tire, know the name and have used every tool in this house and can even install a light fixture.
  6. We desperately need a new desk chair. Although this hand-me-down hasn't lost its comfort, it squeaks uncontrollably every time I even think about moving anything more significant than my fingers on the keyboard. And when the person using it decides to get up, it groans and pops for a good 10 minutes. Frankly, it sounds a lot like the chain of events during the movie "Titanic" leading up to the moment the ship sinks. Sometimes I wonder if the sound editors had an old desk chair, too.
  7. I really want a frozen waffle with strawberry jelly right now. And, sadly, we don't have either of the two ingredients in the house at the moment. Instead of getting off my ass, throwing on a bra and making a quick run to the store, I'll probably settle for stale 12-grain toast and margarine. My strong love of immobility on a Sunday morning will always outweigh my taste buds. Always.

And rather than peg seven people to follow suit, I'll do what I always do and invite anyone to join in who feels like it. Just be sure to leave me a comment and let me know so I can check it out.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Oatmeal that's worth the wait

Operation Paint the Porch has commenced.

Unfortunately, it likely will sit in a suspended state of semi-finishedness (or looks-like-crap-edness) for about a week.

Why?

Because Mother Nature is a big fan of handing down a heaping plate of irony once in awhile.

The entire month of May has been one gorgeous sunny day after another in central Pennsylvania. In fact, all of the record-setting temperatures and lack of moisture has taken a toll on our grass. We've needed a good rain for at least two weeks, but every morning, the sun has been shining without a cloud in sight.

Until yesterday.

Until the day that we wanted to paint our porch. Paint that needs at least 48 hours of sunny, dry weather so it won't bubble up and flake off.

Jerry and I spent the entire afternoon prepping the front and back porch. I scraped up the chipping paint and Jer ran a power sander over every surface. Part of what I love about old houses is peeling away the layers to see what used to be. Under the forest green was a light gray, then a creamy off-white, then a layer of primer, then natural wood.

We didn't take everything all the way down to the wood because that likely would've required 452,092 sander pads and 9 billion man hours. But in some spots, where years of inclement weather had lifted the paint entirely, the original planks have been exposed. For the rest of it, Jerry simply smoothed over the rough edges and broke up the paint enough to give a new layer something to stick to.

We had been debating for months what color to buy, but Jerry eventually talked me out of a soft black. It was too risky. It either would've looked amazing or like a road paver puked tar all over our house. And after buying four gallons of the wrong shade of neutral last summer for our living room, I'm now a little more cautious.

Once we got the okay from my doctor that I'm allowed to paint outside, I immediately ran out to peruse color swatches. I knew I was looking for something in the tan family, but when you have every shade of tan in the universe to choose from, narrowing it down can sometimes be a little tricky.

After much debate, we settled on "oatmeal," one of the signature colors from the Eddie Bauer line. This will make my parents very proud -- probably more so than the day I graduated from college. Not only do they love that store with fierce abandon, I'm pretty sure they singlehandedly keep it in business.

As the afternoon turned to early evening, it became very clear that it was going to rain, dampening any plans we had to paint.

So, instead, we broke out a couple of popsicles and sat on our disastrous front porch with Toby to watch one of the most spectacular thunderstorms I've ever seen. And, at that moment, as the edges of our street filled up with water and the spray of the storm dampened our clothes, it occurred to me that we've owned our house for exactly one year.

So instead of cracking a joke about how the oatmeal is going to get cold, I just sat back and took it all in: owning a house, having a porch, all of the changes we've made.

What's waiting one more week for the weather to clear up?

It already feels like home.